On Sept. 27, 2004, a special ceremony at Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site commemorated the completion of the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database (CWSS). This online, searchable database contains 6.3 million names of Civil War veterans, both Union and Confederate.
In case you’ve never used this database, it’s a dandy. You can search for individual soldiers and their assigned regiments, as well as battle engagements. To search for your ancestor, click on Soldiers or Sailors, then enter at least a surname. The system will display a list of names, along with each person’s regiment, function (such as infantry, artillery or another one) and side (Union or Confederate).
Click on a soldier’s name to see his rank on entering in and mustering out, his company, the National Archives film number of the record that supplied the information, and any notes. If you click on the name of his regiment, you can view the names of all the soldiers in his unit. Some units are accompanied by historical information.
Eventually, you’ll be able to search 13 national cemeteries relating to Civil War battlefield parks, but for now only the Poplar Grove National Cemetery at Petersburg National Battlefield is searchable. This feature promises to be a valuable genealogical resource—you could access information such as your ancestor’s original burial site and date of death, as well as an image of his tombstone.
There’s lots more to search on this site, so poke around for an afternoon or two. Want to find more Civil War records? Try these sites:
• Civil War Regimental History Index
• New York State and the Civil War
• How to Locate Your Civil War Ancestor
• Civil War Regimental Index
• Database of Illinois Civil War Veterans
• Jewish Civil War Soldiers Database
• New York State Volunteer and the United States Sharpshooter Database